What Are You Thankful For?

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What Are You Thankful For?

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Winter is approaching for those who live in the northern hemisphere. The leaves are off of the trees, and some areas of the United States have recently had heavy snow fall. With winter comes the focus of this world’s religious holidays.

In late September, most merchants had Halloween paraphernalia in their stores. By the final week of October, a few brave businesses had already started setting out Christmas displays. In a few weeks most homes will have put up and turned on their Christmas lights. Thanksgiving has become, in too many instances, an afterthought for most of the U.S.A.

What does the day of Thanksgiving mean to you? What does it mean to most in America? All too often, it represents overeating (45 million turkeys, or 15% of the annual consumption, are eaten on Thanksgiving), lots of football games on TV, and the official opening bell of the Christmas shopping season.

A day dedicated to thanking God for our blessings should have more meaning than that, especially to Christians.

The hard journey

The story of the original American Thanksgiving comes from the times of the Pilgrims. What is often forgotten is that those Pilgrims were fleeing religious prosecution in their native England. In 1609 a group of Pilgrims left England for the religious freedom in Holland where they lived and prospered. After a few years their children were speaking Dutch and had become attached to the Dutch way of life. This worried the Pilgrims, as they considered the Dutch frivolous and their ideas a threat to their children's education and morality.

So they decided to leave Holland and travel to the New World. Their trip was financed by a group of English investors, the Merchant Adventurers. It was agreed that the Pilgrims would be given passage and supplies in exchange for working off their debt for seven years. The part of the story that doesn’t seem to get much review is how terribly hard it was for the Pilgrims. The ocean crossing was cold and damp and took sixty-five days. Since there was the danger of fire on the wooden ship, the food had to be eaten cold. Many passengers became sick and one person died by the time land was sighted on November 10,1620.

They were most ill equipped for their new homeland. The first winter was devastating to the Pilgrims. The cold, snow and sleet were exceptionally heavy, interfering with the workers as they tried to construct their settlement. March brought warmer weather and the health of the Pilgrims improved, but many had died during the long winter months. Of the 110 Pilgrims and crew who left England, less than 50 survived the first winter.

Without the assistance of their Indian friend Squanto, who helped them get native crops planted, shelter built and so forth, they might all have perished. Nevertheless, by the end of fall they had a bountiful harvest and felt blessed simply to be alive and to have food to last through the winter. They set aside three days to thank God for their harvest and deliverance and invited their Indian friends to share in the harvest.

Fast forward several hundred years and an official, national Day of Thanksgiving was established in the mid-1800s. For many decades it was recognized as a day of thankfulness, but that has waned.

Giving thanks to God for your physical blessings

What about you? What are you thankful for in this past year? What has God given to you that made your life richer in meaning?

How often do we stop and thank God for the blessings we receive? In Genesis 17 (with special focus on verses 1-7) God gave several promises to Abraham if he obeyed God’s instruction. The U.S. and certain other nations are modern recipients of those promises, but, as a people, Americans have taken those blessings for granted. Our generation is living in an unprecedented period of relative peace and economic prosperity, but instead of recognizing that God is the origin of blessings the U.S. and the world moves further from God in word and deed.

God reminded ancient Israel that if they obeyed Him, He would shower blessings upon them (Malachi 3:10 Malachi 3:10Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
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, Deuteronomy 28:1-14 Deuteronomy 28:1-14 [1] And it shall come to pass, if you shall listen diligently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth: [2] And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of the LORD your God. [3] Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. [4] Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your cows, and the flocks of your sheep. [5] Blessed shall be your basket and your store. [6] Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. [7] The LORD shall cause your enemies that rise up against you to be smitten before your face: they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways. [8] The LORD shall command the blessing on you in your storehouses, and in all that you set your hand to; and he shall bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you. [9] The LORD shall establish you an holy people to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and walk in his ways. [10] And all people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of you. [11] And the LORD shall make you plenteous in goods, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. [12] The LORD shall open to you his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain to your land in his season, and to bless all the work of your hand: and you shall lend to many nations, and you shall not borrow. [13] And the LORD shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath; if that you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day, to observe and to do them: [14] And you shall not go aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
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). This was true for ancient Israel, and is true for any other nation or people who would obey God. The U.S. is still, for the moment, considered the only world super-power with the economic and military strength to take on projects or military action that the rest of the world can’t or won’t. But that is changing.

Give thanks to God for your spiritual blessings

The world around us is not thankful for the creation that God has given mankind. It’s a sad reality that most of the world worships things of the creation, or things they have created (Romans 1:21-28 Romans 1:21-28 [21] Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. [24] Why God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. [26] For this cause God gave them up to vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: [27] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. [28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
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), instead of the one true God. Instead of glorifying God, increasing multitudes, especially in the U.S. and other western nations, dogmatically reject any thought of even God’s existence, let alone His biblically defined way of life!

When God begins to call and work with us, we become spiritual heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29 Galatians 3:29And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
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). Christ came in part to begin to heal the damage done through mankind’s disobedience to God (Luke 4:16-19 Luke 4:16-19 [16] And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. [17] And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, [18] The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, [19] To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
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), and when we yield to God then we can have a relationship with Him. Are you grateful for what God has done in your life (Ephesians 5:20 Ephesians 5:20Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
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)? Are you grateful for what God promises to do in your life?

Are you thankful for the calling God has given to you? Are you thankful for the blessing of being part of a bigger spiritual family – a family that can pray for you, encourage and support you? (Colossians 1:9-12 Colossians 1:9-12 [9] For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [10] That you might walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; [11] Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, to all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; [12] Giving thanks to the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
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). God grants us blessings so that we remember who it is who gives us everything. Through His blessings we should also serve others (Hebrews 13:15-16 Hebrews 13:15-16 [15] By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. [16] But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
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).

It is interesting to note that after that first Pilgrim thanksgiving, there was not another official Thanksgiving Day until after the Civil War. The establishment of Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday was largely the result of a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. She was the author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and the editor of one of the largest women’s magazines of the time.

She had campaigned for four decades to have a day of thanksgiving recognized nationally. In the process of her quest, writing numerous editorials in her magazine to promote the last Thursday of November as a day “to offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year.” But it was the Battle of Gettysburg that finally set the stage. President Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863 setting aside the last Thursday of November as a national Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

So what do you have to be thankful for this year? Our thanksgiving to God should be continuous throughout the year. We have much to be thankful for.